Depression is like that old friend you never remember why you stopped talking to until you meet for lunch one Saturday afternoon. Loud and self absorbed, they point out the best in everyone but you, leaving you hollow and unsure of where to place your foot next. They create an image of you in your head that hadn’t even existed a moment before. They leave you feeling guilty for eating that extra slice of cake; your apparent lack of self control and self value.
I managed to cut ties with my depression – for the most part- a few years ago, after our sudden and unexpected meeting rendered me empty and hospitalised. A head once filled with bright colours and oh so many opportunities grew cracked and fragmented, the colours dim and dreams faded, rusting in so much damp. I never understood how something so…small could turn into something so big. It started with a few grumpy mornings, not wanting to deal with the tiny things that had once seemed like nothing short of blips in time. I soon began to see myself in a way I never had before; undesirable..boring; A waste of space on this overpopulated planet. I wanted to curl up and sleep away the days to shut up the voices in my head; at least when I was asleep I got peace. I took drastic action to get them out, to extract the parasites that swam around my blood making my limbs slow and my head ache. I did my best to carve them out of me, each time thinking I had succeeded until they was back mere seconds later, growing fat on my self loathing. Hours of missed classes and counselling sessions. Strings of lies I would breathe out with a forced smile to hide my shame from those around me. It didn’t help that whispers spread around the village about yet another teenager being dramatic. Many thought perhaps I was being mistreated, looking to blame someone other than me. There was no one to blame though. No one to blame but the malfunctioning wires in my brain that twisted my thoughts. Nothing to blame but the faceless demon that is depression.
I’ve always hated running. With a heart that works only when it wants to, over using it never was and never will be on my to do list. But I would run. One day I just left the house and started running. I ran until I felt sick, until the cruel laughter and malevolent hisses stopped, replaced by nothing but a keen ringing, telling me I had strayed too far from home. Depression has chased me into dark corners of my room on a friday night, all my lights off as I forced myself between the old bed side table and the overflowing cupboard. I thought that if I hid long enough, maybe it wouldn’t find me.
Eating disorders soon became friends depression invited over frequently, and soon I was hosting a party I never agreed to. From here it only went down hill. Pound after pound fell off me as my fingers fell into my throat, desperate to claw out whatever was making me the way I was. I felt a twisted sense of pride when I was done, ignoring my puffy eyes and tear streaked face. I had done it, I had take back my self control, hadn’t I? This sense of accomplishment was fed every-time I successfully refused a snack, a meal. I was taking back my body, even when my mind wasn’t my own. How was I ever to know that I was just making matters worse when I didn’t even know what what mental illness really was.
I would grow angry and frustrated and soon tears replaced smiles and each day felt like agony. From the moment I awoken to the moment my head hit the pillow my mind was plagued with fantasies of dying. You would be horrified to know how easy it is for a teenage girl to access content such as ‘How to die silently and painlessly?’ or ‘How to starve yourself beautiful – pro anorexia’. All it took was a search bar and a look over the shoulder and I was tapping in and eating up the scum of the internet, thinking it a banquet.
If I died, everyone would be better off.
It’s a truth universally known that people don’t really know how to handle mental illness. How do you know if someone is mentally ill? what do you say to them? Are they dangerous? People would rather ignore these questions (along with he sufferer) instead of confronting such problems.
Months down the line I was offered medication, pills to tell me I was happy. And by offered I mean strongly suggested. This was a wake up call, and out of nothing but sheer stubbornness I managed to kick out those unwanted guests, and for the better half of eight years, I have only briefly crossed paths with them.
With turning a quarter of a century coming up in a few months and my days blending together thanks to a job I no longer find passion in, depression began to show interest. It would knock on the door to my brain, growing more frustrated and incensed with every unanswered knock. It grew so loud, so painful that I caved and answered its call. I was foolish to think that a small indulgence would satisfy it’s greedy nature.
Despite what many may believe, having someone in your life while suffering from depression is, in some way, worse than suffering alone. Alone you can indulge in your sadness, you can explore it, get to know it. You can battle it in whatever means you chose. However, with someone you love very near and dear you can almost see the long claws of depression reaching out, risking to touch them, threatening to burn them from over exposure to such dark matter. While you scrape and scratch at your skin, giving into the itch that has been long since coming, they watch on, helpless as you give in to a darkness you think you are fighting. Unlike you, they can walk away from the depression, they can leave. It is this exact fear, that for me, is worse than anything depression may throw at me.
However, these people love me. They love me just as I love them, and want to help just as I would want to help them. As hard as it is to belive, I try and tell myself this. For those of you who ever felt less than worthy, you will understand the inner scoff you try and repress when someone offers your their love and support. It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that they genuinely care, that they care whether or not you fall into the abyss of self loathing and suffering.
Trusting people around you is hard. Telling people that you suffer, that you are afraid is one of the scariest things to do. To lay your heart (and your head) open for all to see is almost paralysing. But please do it. Mental illness doesn’t have to be something shameful. It shouldn’t be something we are ashamed of, something we covet and hide and pray no one will ever find out. Mental illness shouldn’t be used as a tool for discrimination.
There has been a big shift in the way mental illness is seen since the first time it reared its ugly head in my life. People talk more about it now. The internet, while often a cruel place does house places, safe places where people can meet others who suffer and gain a support that may surprise you. With mental health awareness week still fresh in our memories I wanted to shine a light on the reality of depression. How it can affect anyone at anytime and how easy it is to fall pray to such a charming and deceitful monster. With its promise of depth it will open your mind to new things, only to take over once you have fully given in. It won’t let go easily and puts up a fight that sadly, not everyone wins.
As a teenager I had no idea of how important it was to talk about it. I had no idea how much sharing your feelings and fears can help. This time around, I’m learning to be more honest. I’m trying to have the courage to say, “I’m not okay today,” on days when I ‘just can’t’. I’m determined this time around to stand stronger than before in the face of adversity, and my first step is opening up. My first step, in many ways, is this blog post.
So everyone who may or may not be suffering from any sort of mental illness, be it depression, OCD, eating disorders or any of the other faceless demons; please talk to someone.
Be it an online friend, a parents, a lover or a professional, turn to someone you trust and just say ‘I’m not okay, today.’